Navigation and the Ladies Internation Rescue Organisation

It’s always a good thing for men and women to find ways to understand each other better. If done properly, good male/female communication can, in particular, save the bloke from endless arguments, cold silences and comments like ‘that’s stupid’, ‘you’re not listening’ and sentences beginning with ‘my mum was right...’. To help improve this, I thought I’d write a short article about navigation.

Imagine that you’re in your car with your dearly beloved - your lovely female partner without whom life would be an empty wasteland of loneliness and poor personal hygiene. You’re both in the car on your way to an important social event, a place that you both will reach in time, if all goes well, but there’s not a lot of room to spare. You’re driving along and you spot a side street. You realise that if you head down that side street, there’s a very good chance that you’ll end up on a road you know that’ll take you to the destination quicker. ‘Ahah!’ you think, ‘I’ll take that shortcut and I’ll have improved my knowledge of the area, speeded up my journey and my dearly beloved will be really grateful. We’ll be at the wedding/christening/graduation ceremony with time to spare. Hooray!’

I have three words of advice to give at this point:
Don’t do it!

I’m not saying this because I think you’re wrong with your planned short-cut. It will almost certainly shorten the journey. The odds are in your favour. You will feel a sense of pleasure and success if it works out. I can even hear you thinking. ‘Why shouldn’t I take the shortcut? I know the area, I know where most of the routes are, it’s obvious that if I just cut down that side street, barring any stupid barriers, cul de sacs or bollards, I’ll be on to the main road that’s much closer to the destination.’

But the big question is: How will your change of route appear to your dearly beloved? She’s sitting in the car with you. She really wants to get to the event on time. She knows the route there, the same route you’ve both used on several previous occasions. She knows there’s enough time to make it there on that route you’ve always used. In her mind, and the mind of many women, the route is a succession of landmarks. It is not a line on a map. As you’ve been driving along, she’s been ticking off the landmarks in her head and feeling happy that the journey is all going fine. Her last minute anxiety over what outfit to wear won’t have jeopardised everything. It’s all okay... and then you turn off the route! You’ve abandoned the route you both know very well and charged off into completely unknown territory! At the moment when she really needs her man to stick to the plan and get there on time, you’ve gone off down a road that you’ve both never been down before, just to try and impress her with your orienteering skills - you egotistical, uncaring, anti-social idiotic bastard!

Do you see what I’m getting at? No one’s in the wrong. No one’s being uncaring or thoughtless, but that won’t stop you both having an almighty argument that’ll probably ruin the whole day.

Years ago, I wrote a short audio sketch exploring just that difference between the navigation methods of many men and women. Here it is:

F/X: SOUNDS OF TROPICAL RAINFOREST
EWAN: My god, I’m lost. I can’t believe it. Wait. My mobile phone still works. Brilliant! Where’s that local emergency number?
F/X: MOBILE PHONE DIALS. RAINFOREST SOUNDS FADE OUT. OFFICE SOUNDS FADE IN.
FAY: Hello. You’ve reached LIRO, the ladies’ international rescue organisation.
EWAN: (on the phone) Hello! My name is Ewan. I’m lost in the jungle.
FAY: Don’t worry Ewan, we’re here to help. Where are you?
EWAN: (on the phone) My GPS says I’m 14.23 degrees longitude.
FAY: I’m sorry Ewan, but I didn’t hear that. (Off the phone) Susie, I’ve got another one telling me a bunch of numbers.
SUSIE: Oh dear, another male gadget freak.
EWAN: (on the phone) Don’t you need to know my position? I think I’ve drifted about eight miles west of the research station.
FAY: He’s on about East and West now. What good is that to me? I don’t know which direction he’s facing. He’ll be on about maps in a minute.
SUSIE: Ask him what’s around.
FAY: Ewan, can you see any interesting sights around you?
EWAN: (on the phone) Interesting sights? Um, I don’t know. There’s the sound of a waterfall nearby. Shall I head to that?
FAY: Oh yes. That’d be great. Home in on that while we resolve your location.
EWAN: (on the phone) Okay.
SUSIE: Did he say waterfall? Maybe that’s the lovely one we went swimming in last month, the one close to the river.
FAY: Oh yes. We went to the research station down that terrible track. Then we walked along the rainforest path past the old ruins.
SUSIE: They were lovely.
FAY: Beautiful mosses. Then we walked down to the stream and walked beside it, past that huge overhanging tree.
SUSIE: That’s where you got those leeches. Yuk!
FAY: And then we reached the waterfall, through those rocks that looked like huge teeth.
SUSIE: Yes. That was a lovely spot for a swim. I got a bit sunburnt though.
EWAN: (on the phone) I’ve reached the waterfall. I’m trying to triangulate myself.
FAY: Don’t give up now! We think we’ve fixed your location. Follow these instructions and you’ll be safe!
SUSIE: Ah, another success for LIRO.
FAY: Too true. (on the phone) Ewan, head towards the jagged rocks that look like teeth. Lovely, aren’t they?…

If there any ladies out there who are reading this and have perfectly good mental map navigation skills, my apologies if this is inappropriate for you. In my defence, the female or feminine brain is usually different from the male’s. It has been formed over hundreds of thousands of years of human development in which the man has gone out to hunt and the woman has stayed around the camp, foraging, gathering, maintaining, organising and interacting. It’s the same development of mental strengths that makes women much better at spotting what items are missing from a group of objects. It’s also the same hard-wired skills that makes them so incredibly good at social conversation, which should come in handy once the man and the woman do finally, and happily, reach their destination...